The Sexist

Sexist Beatdown: Shut Your Lady Trap And Fellate Me Edition

This week, disabled feminist blogger Annaham wrote a piece about dealing with Internet harassment of the international, televised, celebrity-sanctioned, horrible-death-threat variety.

And Salon writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote a piece about dealing with Internet harassment of the if-you-experienced-PTSD-after-a-traumatic-childbirth-then-you-sound-like-a-bitch-who-just-shouldn't-ever-reproduce variety.

And recently, Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown wrote a piece about dealing with Internet harassment by loudly and publicly eviscerating the harasser, and then replacing all of their comments with the word "[BONERS]."

And also Awl writer Maura Johnston wrote a piece about dealing with Internet harassment by developing a "thick skin" because the Internet is "pretty much as mean as all of us," no more, no less.

And all of these people are women. And so, in this edition of Sexist Beatdown, Sady and I get to talking about Internet harassment of the you-women-ought-to-employ-your-mouths-for-dick-sucking-and-not-opinionating variety. Come troll, come all, and join us for a conversation which, oddly, does not conclude with Sady and I shutting up and performing blow jobs!

SADY: Hello! And, in related news, I hate you! Because we are on the Internet. Where ladies are hated abundantly!

AMANDA: With much vigor and from many angles! I really, really identified with Annaham's post, mostly about how shit on the Internet does affect me, but I'm not allowed to talk about it because "it's the Internet." But there. I said it, it does.

SADY: INDEED IT DOES! I once spoke to someone who was like, "all you ever talk about is who hates you on the Internet today. And why are you letting it get under your skin?" And I was like, "Because they hate me! I don't care where they are! Being on the Internet makes it WORSE, because I can SEE them hating me, FROM MY BEDROOM!" "I have a phone with e-mail on it! I can see people hating me WHEREVER I AM IN THE WORLD!"

AMANDA: Yeah, or from my office? For my career is located on the Internet.

SADY: PRECISELY. And, I mean, I really identified with Annaham's piece too. It said stuff I had been struggling to say, for like the LONGEST time, but in an actually sensical way that could potentially persuade people. Rather than me being like, "AND ALSO, in the SUBWAY, people are mean!"

AMANDA: For me, it wasn't so much that I couldn't figure out how to say it—though she said it very, very well—but that I didn't want to, because I don't want to tip my hand toward awful, anonymous commenters, or show any weakness, or risk being eviscerated for acting like a victim. It's not that I feel that I've been victimized. I just want to be able to talk about this shit, basically, and there's no space for that. So she's very brave, is what I'm saying.

SADY: Exactly. Because, the thing is, when you talk about Dicks On The Internet Getting You Down—or, worse, snap at one of them—people think you are just hypersensitive, and a whiner, and petty, and whatever. They think it's a personal problem. Whereas, me, I've talked to a lot of ladies who are on the Internet. I'm really into building Internet Lady Community, because it's not so easy. And here is the one way I have learned that you can start a passionate conversation with a lady who works on the Internet: MENTION MEAN COMMENTERS. Because we all get it! In super-intense ways! And at high volume! Every single lady on the Internet gets this thing!

AMANDA: Oh yeah. None of us is immune. And it's not subtle, either. It's obviously—just obviously—targeted at shutting us up.

SADY: Yes. It is not personal, it affects ladies qua ladies, it hurts and saddens, and I believe in ye olden tymes we would refer to this as a "Really Fucking Obvious Feminist Issue."

AMANDA: I know you recently quit the Internet for a weekend, and who can blame you? Because the real world is pleasant? But actually, people who aim personal attacks at us know that it makes us turn away and shut up, even for a little bit.

SADY: Exactly! And you can tell, because it tends to get more intense the larger one's audience is. I feel like I, full disclosure, have been relatively privileged insofar as I do NOT get mean commenters all that often, largely because they can tell I am WAY MEANER than they are. I have developed this Massively Uninhibited Bitch Who Will Cut You Persona. And as much as that might alienate people, I feel like it was a smart decision. Because when posters OTHER than me are at my blog, they DON'T have a rep as someone who will cut off your balls and feed them to you, perhaps in a delicate white wine sauce, and the assholes feel a lot safer.

AMANDA: Well, I know a lot of women who fucking love that persona of yours because we sort of live vicariously through it. But we shouldn't all have to adopt extremely defensive strategies in order to just ... speak.

SADY: Right. You should be able to post a picture of your new hat on the Internet without having to have built up 9,000,000 defensive strategies for when someone calls you ugly. Because they will call you ugly! They just will! Or a slut, if they can't call you that. "WHY ARE YOU SHOWING OFF YOUR PROVOCATIVE TORSO IN THIS FASHION?"

AMANDA: Because can I tell you? This woman on my blog the other day posted a comment about how the arguments that I make are less valid because of how my voice sounds. Because of how words sound when they leave my mouth. And because it sounds kind of like how a lady sounds.

SADY: Hahaha. So, she is just LITERALLY TELLING YOU not to speak. "When you speak, I can't help but notice that you are speaking," is what she says, "and that makes it harder for me to pay attention when you speak."

AMANDA: Right. Like could you perhaps get a surrogate voice, a more manly and patronizing one? Perhaps then my voice (but not my voice) can truly be heard.

SADY: Right. I mean: I think that, when people talk about blogs, they talk about the democratization of voice, and how it allows everyone to be heard. But what they don't talk about, so often, is how (a) We also re-iterate the same structures of rewarding or punishing voices that you see in Actual Real Life Not On The Internet, and (b) How the possibility that ladies might be TAKING to the Internet, and thus might have finally found a forum in which you literally CANNOT SHUT THEM UP by refusing to publish them or listen to them at your party or allow them into your fancy organizations or whatever, scares the shit out of dudes, and thus amps up the harassment to a truly scary degree. Like: I get harassed on the street, told to smile, have my tits pointed out to me, whatever. But on the street I don't TYPICALLY get told that someone should rape me to death. Thanks to the Internet, I can in fact have just such an experience!

AMANDA: Oh agreed. And I certainly don't get the degree of vitriol that some other people get, who are not cis, and not white, and not straight. But good golly do I still get a lot of it! There is just so much vitriol to go around!

SADY: That is the thing! And I feel like, you know: We can talk about the New Niceness, and whether it is a thing (it is probably not a thing) or "Internet harassment" in general, but looking at it: I've written so much that is mean about ladies in the pop culture! But I have NEVER gotten it as hard as Annaham has. And I have to think that it is because she has not one, but TWO marks against her in the Things I Can Dismiss A Person For column. She's a feminist lady, and she's a lady with a disability. And making fun of "feminists" is a time-honored Internet Pastime, but "disabled feminists?" Boy howdy, is that ever an excellent punchline for Amanda Palmer and her delightful comedy routines!

AMANDA: Oh God, I know. International televised harassment for ... what? Not particularly enjoying the way a particular musician she likes is appropriating disability?

SADY: Right. And then, the Internet Douches, well-accustomed to not listening to ladies, ESPECIALLY not listening to feminist ladies, and ESPECIALLY not listening to people who talk about disabled folks getting the short end of the stick, are like: YES. TARGET ACQUIRED.

AMANDA: One of your commenters (you have some really great commenters, along with the bad ones) made a really good point about the difference between criticism and harassment, and how Amanda Palmer and her legion of defenders have failed to recognize the difference. And I feel like that's a common trait of all trolls—just flat out refusing to engage in any kind of subtlety or empathy.

SADY: Exactly. I mean, I did not read the Male Studies Scholar Conference that happened on Sexist Beatdown two weeks ago IN ITS ENTIRETY, but I do vividly remember the gentleman who requested that, next time we spoke, the other one suck his personal dick, that he might be able to tolerate our lady jabber. That is not, "I think the political underpinnings of your work are flawed." That is not, "Okay, good post, but here's the line I have an issue with."

AMANDA: Oh, well I live for this man to tolerate me!

SADY: I forget. Is it your turn to fellate this gentleman? Or mine?

AMANDA: It is what feminism has been striving for all these years. Tell Gloria Steinem that it was just as easy as a blow job.

SADY: I mean, it's so easy to dismiss everyone who criticizes you as a hater or a bad person. So easy! But I've been CRITICIZED, from a lot of different angles, by a lot of people. And it might irritate me. But none of it is people just flat out saying, "fuck or walk, bitches." And that's what the Internet is, for women, a WHOLE STINKING LOT OF THE TIME. Like, maybe if they are Gawker commenters they might wrap it up in some clever allusion to a Baumbach movie, or whatever. But you can still feel it seething, a lot of the time.

AMANDA: Yes. And this is one of the reasons why I love, love, love Feministe's Next Top Troll series.

SADY: Is it not the best?

AMANDA: Because the comments? They never change. It doesn't matter what woman is talking or what she's talking about or what the tone of her argument is. The vitriol is across the board just exactly the same as what I get. And it's fucking hilarious, and I take comfort in it.

SADY: Exactly. In summary, for Troll SEO Purposes: Male studies. Male studies, male studies, male studies. Women tell the truth sometimes about rape. Circumcision! DIVORCE. There. That ought to get them started! Oh, and also: I dislike prog rock, and dudes who make prog rock, sometimes. WHAT DO YOU GOT, INTERNET? WHAT. DO. YOU. GOT.

AMANDA: I can't wait to hear the troll perspective on this. Oh please! Yes. Explain the various ways that voluntarily reading and commenting on my blog oppresses you! Go on! Or perhaps you'd like to argue as to why you are doing me a service, and why I ought to be praising you for your volunteer work in the comments section? I am interested in considering all of these possibilities.

SADY: "One time I was on the Internet, and someone disagreed with me! I politely explained why she was a stupid little girl, and then, she YELLED at me. My oppression, it is intense at times. And yet, I soldier on!" — A Commenter.

AMANDA: In conclusion, BONERS.

SADY: It is a regular BONER PARTY, out there on the Internet. And it makes my lady boners wither away in despair. Though not really! Because also, I keep blogging. At this point, mainly just to piss them off. Do you hear that, Feminist-Blog-Hating Internet? YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR FEMINIST BLOGGING!

AMANDA: The world will never shrink this feminist boner!

Photo via EraPhernalia Vintage, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • k

    But Amanda, why DO you put up with the commenters? Is it just to put anti-feminism on display in all its greasy, disgusting glory?

    I remember Andrew Sullivan posting that he had just opened an email with the subject line "Good job!" only to find that the message read something like, "Now hurry up and die of AIDS". Before that I don't think I really realized just how much vitriol people who write on the Internet have to deal with. I am glad that there are people like you out there who are willing to do it.

  • Hannah

    I love this. I have a little, no-account blog I do now and then about sexist advertising, and a couple of guys have turned up and commiserated with me about how they imagine I can't get laid. Thank you, men. I don't even know how they got there! Their concern for my love life rivals my mother's.

  • Marty

    My personal motto is now:

    "The world will never shrink this feminist boner."

    But seriously folks, while I don't have a blog, I did grapple with what to do about the haters who hated on my Sexist guest post. I opted for "nothing." I can't even imagine the weight of haters hating on every single word that came out of my mouth, especially if the hate arrived as infinite recombinations of the words "suck," "my," and "dick."

  • Shinobi

    I have a fat acceptance blog, and I mostly get "haha, stop being so fat bitch" comments. So far I have not lost any weight as a result of these comments, but I am hoping I do so I can sell it as a weight loss scheme and make millions of dollars.

  • Amanda

    My blog is small. I post about twice a week. I aim it at my family and friends.

    And yet, I managed to get a troll so devoted that he made four separate posts on his blog about me, including a poll asking readers to judge my appearance, accompanied by a picture he swiped from my blog!

    Other people regularly call me ugly, stupid, a slut, someone who needs to get laid, someone who must never have been laid, and all sorts of other lovely things. i now have a comment policy for my tiny blog, and a separate email address so that I don't have to see vitriol when I want to check for important emails.

  • Courtney S. (Conclusion: Sady Doyle and Amanda Hess are the loveliest ladies on the internet)

    I've just recently gotten an influx of Doctor Who fans reading my blog after I publicly criticized the community for not being lady-friendly enough, and every time I check my comment moderation queue, I get a sick feeling in my stomach. So this post was really timely for me, and reading it made me feel so much better. Next time the comments get me down, I can read this and laugh and feel empowered by my feminist boner. So thanks!

  • Vee

    I--yeah. When I started my blog, it was in large part due to the Internet harassment I've seen happen to other women blogging that I locked comments to other users of said site. I just plain couldn't face it. I recognize that this is maybe cowardly of me, and I'm definitely changing it if I ever emerge on anything more public blogging-wise, but it's pretty remarkable, how pervasive this is.

  • http://twitter/scaryjoann scary joann

    I don't even have a blog, I just occasionally comment on others, such as this one. Despite a heartwarming troll comment about how I need to blow my own brains out and don't contribute at all to society, I still have a great time commenting here. The best thing about feminist blogs is I can usually count on someone somewhere to agree. Versus video game blogs, which are almost entirely inhabited by men blaming women anytime there's an piece on how most female game characters suck. If I comment there I might as well not read the replies, for every post having even a half grain of logic in it there are three telling me to shut up and choke on a cock.

  • kza

    Sady doesn't get mean commenters cuz she doesn't approve comments that are mean. duh...

  • Amanda Hess

    Yeah, the thing is, if you moderate comments to weed out the worst ones ... you still have to read all of them. If you don't moderate, you can choose not to read the comments if you don't want to.

  • kza

    I think moderating comments makes your blog look kinda lame, like you can't handle people's different opinions. The flagging feature that this site uses is way better.

  • Sady

    You know, KZA, you're totally right! What I should really do is make my blog a more open and welcome and accepting environment for people who think I am a stupid bitch and hate me. What is wrong with me, that I have not before considered how I marginalize the Sady Is A Stupid Bitch and We Hate Her Community? Surely, my personal blog is the best possible place for opinions on how terrible I am to be voiced! And I have a right -- nay, AN OBLIGATION -- to make sure that people feel totally comfortable being awful shits to me in this place that I personally run and pay for and moderate and own and organize and control.

    Oh, wait, no. I totaly don't! DURN, I guess I'll just go back to deleting those comments then. Me and my oppressive ways, I tell you!

  • Richard “Mr X”

    You are both divine.

  • squirrely girl

    "I think moderating comments makes your blog look kinda lame, like you can’t handle people’s different opinions."

    I think the whole point of the original article is that some of these aren't "opinions" but just hateful attacks. Why should the readers have to deal with that bullshit too?

    I, for one, appreciate when the moderator saves me the hassle of reading and reporting all of the "ugly, stupid, slut, bitch, cunt, whore, etc." comments. Quite honestly, I don't think hateful trolls deserve the space to spew their hate.

  • kza

    Yea. You see the troll comment, someone flags it, then you delete it. ZOMG what a difficult concept to grasp :-0 The one comment I made on your site didn't get approved and it wasn't even trollish or even on a post you right. But keep on bloggin' in that bubble I guess....

  • Miz Science

    I run a science blog, and you would think that the issue of my being a woman would not be a topic of discussion. But trolls hate women everywhere.

    Thanks for giving me some inspiration. I've let my blog stagnate due to nasty comments (which are always, always moderated). kza, my blog, my rules. Trolls get moderated. Don't like it, don't read (or comment).

  • pipi long stockings

    awww, you hurt kza's feelings Sady.

  • J

    I just drove myself into a frenzy trying to comment on Taffy Brodesser-Akner's articles. I really really REALLY hope that she's been informed of the multiple web communities dedicated to mothers who have suffered through trauma from hospital births. Being pregnant for the first time, I go into panic mode just being exposed to "typical" births presented on television. The only way I can calm myself is by reading peaceful home birth experiences on I'm still in utter shock that the medical establishment has turned a natural, normal life process into a procedure that is comparable to, well, torture. In fact, I never realized it until I was exposed to the phenomenon, but hospitilizing births has largely destroyed women's sense of trust in their bodies. It envokes fear, unease, and not only is it physically damaging (permantly in incidents of C-sections), but as Taffy Brodesser-Akner and millions of other women in America have experienced it, brutally destructive to our psyches. Hospitilized births are one of the most culturally acceptable ways of intensely shaming and inflicting pain on women. I mean, seriously, this shit is FUCKED. UP.

  • kza

    I don't have feelings. I'm a troll.

  • Shannon

    AMANDA: Because can I tell you? This woman on my blog the other day posted a comment about how the arguments that I make are less valid because of how my voice sounds. Because of how words sound when they leave my mouth. And because it sounds kind of like how a lady sounds.

    SADY: Hahaha. So, she is just LITERALLY TELLING YOU not to speak. “When you speak, I can’t help but notice that you are speaking,” is what she says, “and that makes it harder for me to pay attention when you speak.”

    AMANDA: Right. Like could you perhaps get a surrogate voice, a more manly and patronizing one? Perhaps then my voice (but not my voice) can truly be heard.
    I am surprised to see my comment was taken so far out of the context for which it was originally intended. Your arguments, as I said in my original post, were clear and concise. They were valid. I agreed with your points, and found them to be both rational and reasonable in comparison to others' drivelling. I did not say that your argument was less valid for the sound of your voice, nor did I imply that it sounded in any way "ladylike". An argument can be made in a "ladylike" tone of voice and still be effective; I wouldn't criticize the sound of someone's voice as a hindrance to what they say. My criticism was on speaking with hedges (um, uh...) and upward intonations at a sentence's conclusion, and I would just as well criticize a man's speaking for the same. My criticism was not to say "OMG STOP TALKING", but that "It's not only what you say, but how it is said." Someone could say something in different inflections and have it mean something different each way. The way someone's voice sounds as is is not the sticking point here.

  • lola


    "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all"

    or, alternatively, go to make your own fucking blog. Really, it's quite simple. Have an e-mail? You can have your very own blog within minuets! And then, gasp!!, you can like totally control how you do comments!!!

    Unfortunately for your little troll boner, Sady controls her own blog for the time being. The end.

  • lola

    or "minutes", rather. Although having a blog within minuets would be interesting to say the least...

  • Jennifer Christa

    I just started my own blog about the inequalities I see/face, and you ladies summed up how I feel and why I delayed starting it.

  • LeftSidePositive

    Public service announcement here to J and others:

    While natural childbirth usually goes pretty well, and women everywhere have employed it successfully for thousands of years, sometimes things do go very, very wrong. In pre-industrialized societies (historically and now), childbirth is/was a HUGE cause of death and disability.

    Based on the amount of bloodflow going to the placenta if there are any major complications a woman can bleed out in under seven minutes. Any lack of oxygen to a newborn can lead to severe and lifelong mental disability. While the percentages are small, the severity of the risk is large and very, very real...this is not just "destroy[ing] women's sense of trust in their bodies"--these medical risks are real and not socially constructed.

    Yes, there are patronizing and authoritarian doctors who do not treat their patients with enough respect. Yes, the MANNER in which some doctors treat their patients "destroy[s] women's sense of trust in their bodies" and violates patient autonomy, but this is the problem with the PRACTICE not the fact of medical intervention itself. But, it is also very important for women to have access to quality care within a VERY short time frame, and forgoing such care can be very dangerous. It angers me that the disrespect some doctors show their patients leads many women to take on needless risk and suffering because of their fear of how they will be treated by the medical establishment.

    To that end, I encourage you not to forgo medical assistance, but to seek out medical assistance that will respect your wishes. Talk to your OB-GYN (or find another one that better suits your goals) as to how you want to approach the birth, what your goals and wishes are with regard to pain medication, fetal monitoring, surgical intervention, etc. Ask what kind of flexibility is available in making medical decisions, and also discuss your risk factors, general health, and progression of your pregnancy to make an informed decision if you'd be a safe candidate to attempt home birth, and discuss back-up plans. Talk to your friends and neighbors if there are any OB-GYNs they can recommend who made their deliveries happy & memorable experiences. Many hospitals and/or birth clinics are even moving toward simulating a more welcoming & home-like environment for their patient rooms, so you can see what's in your area and what is right for you. By all means I support your decision not to put your health and a memorable life event into the hands of a physician who won't respect you, but please be aware that you don't need to put yourself at additional risk to get the quality, compassionate care you deserve.

    Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled feminism...

  • kza

    @ lola
    I don't say anything on her site because I don't read it. I only commented when she posted some inaccurate bullshit. Someone needed to call it out but that's the only time I ever commented. So since you don't know what you're talking about...perhaps you should um, shut your lady trap?

  • Lo Down

    I think people here should follow kza's advice and flag the shit out of his/her posts.

  • Village

    I am old enough to be your grandmother, and my question is, why on earth are you spending time on this? You are wasting your time. You should find comfort in the fact that your IQs are probably twice theirs. Leave it at that, and move on. Anything else and you are casting your pearls before swine. Most men are idiots. Only deal with the ones who are your peers and IYRL. Otherwise, have pity on them, and move on. Quickly.

  • BradMillersHero

    Interestingly enough, just put up an article in which the comments section has descended into an argument about "Tits or GTFO".

    Me personally- I moderate comments on my blog because I'm tired of spam. I put up hateful comments because they amuse me.

  • Paul

    SADY: Hahaha. So, she is just LITERALLY TELLING YOU not to speak. “When you speak, I can’t help but notice that you are speaking,” is what she says, “and that makes it harder for me to pay attention when you speak.”

    To judge from your paraphrase she isn't literally telling her not to speak. She is literally telling her: “When you speak, I can’t help but notice that you are speaking and that makes it harder for me to pay attention when you speak.” You could take this, perhaps, to be the commentator *implying* Amanda shouldn't speak, but it would perhaps be more productive to keep open to the demurral and view it as helpful feedback.

    And who knows, maybe Amanda's speaking voice really isn't the best? Some people just do have ineffective speaking voices (as an inveterate mumbling low-talker I empathise with these people).

  • Jess

    Oh jeez Paul are you one of those, "It's 'figuratively' not 'literally'" people? Like a ten year old who just got an A on his literature test.

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  • Sarah

    I don't have anything important to add to the discussion, but I want to say thank you. I agree that the responses of trolls (or worse, people who honestly hate) is upsetting, confusing, and almost never addressed. It's hard to pretend it doesn't happen, but what is the right response? This discussion was so good.